Digital ARC provided by Little, Brown via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Mythology, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
My rating: ★★★★★
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.
When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe’s place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.
There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe’s independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
My mythology background is pretty much non-existent. I didn’t pay close enough attention in high school when we read The Odyssey and The Iliad. So after I heard the raving reviews about Circe, I instantly knew I had to read it. My need for learning mythology is growing and I was so drawn into the themes of witchcraft in this gorgeous book.
Circe is a very character driven book. It begins with Circe growing up in Oceanus with her father, the sun god Helios, her cold-hearted nymph mother Perse, and her siblings: Pasiphaë, Perses, and Aeëtes. The story follows Circe’s relationships with her harsh family, who believe she is ugly and worthless. She only forms a close bond with Aeëtes, but once he moves away, she is all alone. After Circe casts spells that backfire, Zeus exiles her to the island of Aiaia.
Circe’s life unfolds before us as she lives her eternal days alone on the island. There she hones her craft; perfecting spells, potions, and tonics. She encounters shipwrecked sailors and is visited by several gods from mythos: Hermes, Athena, Daedalus, and Odysseus.
Other than the insanely beautiful and lyrical writing, I was so pleased to get to read about the other gods as well. We get little glimpses of the rest of the Titans and Olympians. Odysseus and Daedalus play a major role, but we also get to witness the birth of Pasiphaë‘s son, the infamous Minotaur, Scylla the six-headed sea monster, Medea, and Icarus.
There are also some very rough topics such as rape and abuse. And while those were very hard parts to read, this book is also powerful, feminist, and full of hope. It showcases the love a mother has for a child, how we are not our parents’ mistakes, and how we can carve our own paths. This beautiful, epic story had me so hungry to continue my journey into the world of mythos, and I hope you enjoy this book, too!